NC Republicans pass anti-CRT bill to limit how schools teach race, American history

Democrats say an anti-CRT bill at the North Carolina legislature would even ban teachers from telling students whether slavery was good or bad. Republicans say concepts like white privilege and systemic racism are inappropriate for teachers to mention.

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Will Doran
, WRAL state government reporter

Despite emotional objections from Black legislators, the state House voted Wednesday to pass a bill limiting how schools can teach race and similar topics.

"History is difficult," said Rep. Amos Quick, a Greensboro Democrat. "History is often not pretty. But history needs to be respected enough not to be scrubbed, sanitized or erased."

The bill goes next to the Senate, which passed a similar bill in 2021, inspired by national efforts by conservative activists to ban critical race theory from being taught. That 2021 bill was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who called it the result of "conspiracy-laden politics" on the right.

The bill's Republican backers, both in 2021 and now, have said they want to stop teachers from indoctrinating students on political views. And even if there's no attempt at indoctrination, GOP supporters say, kids still shouldn't be put in a position where their teacher's lesson plan makes them feel guilty or uncomfortable.

"Learning should be fun and exciting," said Gaston County Republican Rep. John Torbett, the bill's lead sponsor, during Wednesday's debate in the House.

The bill, HB 187, wouldn't ban only liberal opinions in the classroom. It says teachers should be banned from endorsing white supremacy just as much as they should be banned from endorsing the existence of white privilege or systemic racism.

Critics say that's a false dichotomy, pointing to America's lengthy history of racism.

Charlotte Democratic Rep. Kelly Alexander, whose father was a key figure in the state's civil rights movement, questioned why conservative lawmakers might want to ban teachers from telling students how to interpret American history, especially where race is concerned.

He asked what purpose there could be to forcing teachers not to take sides on issues like slavery, the genocide of Native Americans and the internment of Japanese-Americans in prison camps during World War II.

"These are the kinds of things our kids ought to know about, and be able to stand up and talk about, just like I'm talking about it," Alexander said. "But these are the kinds of things you can't expect kids to learn about without somebody, at some point, getting some heartburn. But that's OK."

Raleigh Democratic Rep. Rosa Gill, a retired teacher, had a more succinct reaction. When she first read the bill she thought to herself: "What in the world is going on?"

It wasn't just Black Democrats who objected to the bill, but also their white colleagues.

Apex Rep. Julie von Haefen has been a substitute teacher before. She wondered if she would be banned from doing that in the future, if this bill becomes law, because she has made public statements advocating for women's equality. She said the bill appears to potentially ban teachers from saying it's good that women are allowed to vote now, "because of the risk that someone might feel discomfort" from learning that men used to ban women from voting.

She added that she saw the bill as little more than the GOP's attempt at "a distraction from the very real issues that public schools face," like teacher shortages.

No Republican lawmakers spoke out to counter the Democrats' accusations, although every Republican voted for it. The bill passed along party lines, 68-49.

The bill comes as conservative activists have also recently ramped up efforts to ban books about race and LGBTQ issues in schools, public records show.


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